Updated: Aug 4
I hope you enjoyed last's week's Finding Positivity post. Mental well-being is a hot topic these days (rightly so), so whilst this is not a ground-breaking revelation I hope that I offered something thought-provoking. As a follow-up to that post I wanted to discuss some ways we practice 'self-care' this sunny Sunday. Let's start of by laying the ground rule:
Self-care is a necessary requirement.
Right, so, what exactly are we talking about here?
There are various 'definitions' of self-care and whilst all of which slightly differ, they generally consist of the idea that self-care is;
will improve or maintain health and well-being,
is performed or initiated by one's self rather than someone else, and
is something that is actively practised.
If I asked you "Do you take care of yourself", you might instinctively say "yes".
You watch what you eat, you move/ exercise, you look out for family and friends, so, yes?
Well, it's a good start but not quite. It's about doing the things you want to do for you, and chopping out the things you don't really want to do. Or at least, improving the balance between the two to be in your favour. Ironically, selfish is an antonym of selfless. Self-care should not be deemed a selfish act, but in essence it is... Just not in the usual sense that it is deemed to be inconsiderate.
Okay, what should I do?
There different ways we can practice self-care. It is a personal thing to do. That's kind of the point. I also emphasise the term 'practice' because these activities are usually things that require a little time, a little effort, a little presence to execute. Flopping on the couch for some Floor is Lava (is anyone else watching this on Netflix? It's actually so great.) is all well and good, but let's just agree that we can get more creative than that when it comes to looking after 'Number One'.
Self-care actually spans across different realms of our life. Different sources will label these differently and there are definitely overlaps, but let's summarise these as;
Physical - a regular sleep pattern including sleep hygiene; nutrition; general health (routine checks, dental check-ups); exercise, sport or other activities; even taking proper steps to recover from illness (rest, medical intervention, use sick days)
Psychological - actually doing the 'switch off' from study, work or even social media commitments (not just talking about doing it - guilty); relaxation through hobbies or activities you enjoy (cinema, gaming, reading) ; making art or writing; keeping a diary; learn a new skill
Emotional - nurturing positive relationships and disregarding toxic ones; confide in companions with your concerns or stresses; gratitude journaling
Spiritual - mindfulness or meditation, other reflective practices such as prayer
Other kinds of self-care that are co-dependent on other people include;
Relationships - a hybrid of some of the above factors, but essentially nurturing relationships with close family members/ spouse/ children. For example, 'date nights', marking special occasions together (birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations), and marking time for participating in some of the above activities together (sport, cinema, art, etc).
Professional - continuing professional development; being mentored or offering mentorship; maintaining work/life balance and knowing limits (client boundaries, checking emails during time off, agreeing to overtime)
If you were to write a checklist of things you do for self-care, how easy would it be and how many different things would you find? How much time do you dedicate to self-care? Which of the above areas do you do well with? Which ones are lacking?
It's the stuff you have to set aside time for. It's not using your holiday entitlement to take a day off work to do housework. When was the last time you did some self-care?
As I've said, self-care is as much about the things you don't like doing. As in, knowing when not to do them. The NOPES. Social events you don't really want to go to, being in a job that deflates you, a diet you can't stick to ...
You do You
For me, I've been really aware of my sleep hygiene recently. I have always kept a good bedtime for work in the morning (generally I can't stay up late, even on weekends!) but things like screen-time before bed and having a cool, dark bedroom has actually really helped!
During Lockdown I also started a diary which has been good for writing down the 'little things', getting them out of my head and onto paper. If you don't feel like confiding in someone or saying your stresses to someone, diaries can be a helpful alternative.
If you are a follower of mine, you'll also know I exercise often (hence the fitness blog!) - this brings me real joy - and I really enjoy going for walks with my partner too.
Something I still need to work on is procrastination, some days I feel I simply have no organisation skills!
Don't Overlook the Small Things
One thing I have found sooo therapeutic is Unsubscribing from automated emails. Yeah, really. Sick of filtering through emails from countless retailers about LAST CHANCE SALE, restaurants with SPECIAL DISCOUNT CODES, or random websites you somehow subscribed to years ago .. every. single. day? Emails that you don't care about. Emails that eat into your time and attention and ENERGY. Here's news - you don't need to do that. That is not what you were put on this earth to do. Open up that email, scroll (usually right to the bottom) and go ahead, click on the Unsubscribe button. Instant self-care.
Similarly, I went through my social channels recently and I subscribed from accounts that - quite frankly - make me feel sh*tty whenever I see a post by them. Usually clothes retailers, celebrities, influencers trying to flog something, serving up unattainable standards, or plugging false joy. Just go ahead and purge that.. but HOPEFULLY I am not one of those people to you. I've found that if there are people who I know in real life who make me feel this way, but Unfollowing will be too awkward or cause tension, I've 'muted' them so they no longer appear on my feed but I can stay connected where I need to.
You might find that someone you know posts 'triggering' content - usually political/ conspiracy/ controversial/ unpopular opinion posts - that make you feel a little bit angry inside when you read them. Yes, debate is always healthy but social media is often not the best place for it. Don't let people's trolling or click-bait disturb your inner peace. If you don't like it, just Mute it.
The Wrap Up
I don't need to go into the implications for if we don't carry out enough self-care. I'm just a critical friend that tells you to do it because you know you need to.
This link has some handy resources - might seem obvious, but if it inspires you then that's great.
Let me know if you have your own take on self-care or if you have ideas that you'd like to share!